Filipino singer-songwriter Ysa Yaneza is channeling the Y2K vibe with modern-day energy while adding her unique creative spin.
Growing up in a culturally diverse environment has both its good and bad sides. On one hand, you get exposed to different cultures and expand your worldview. But on the other hand, it can lead to a bit of an identity crisis as you struggle to find that place where you belong. For young musician Ysa Yaneza, she fell into the latter. She was born in the Philippines to full-blooded Filipino parents, but moved to Singapore when she was young. Since then, she has occasionally returned to her homeland now and then. Her not being Singaporean enough to others and also not being Filipino enough for some was a struggle Ysa has had to deal with.
But over time, the young artist learned to navigate her way around the world and accept the person she is. And because of that, not only is Ysa a young woman who is sure of what she wants, but it reflects in a growing music career that shows great promise told in a style that’s confidently her own.
Music runs in her family, or at least listening to it. It was always playing in her home along with MTV. “My dad loved music, like the 80s and 90s. Music kind of was just always around the house,” shares Ysa in an interview with NYLON Manila. “I think my earliest memory is just hearing the Backstreet Boys and watching their music videos. So, I think music videos, like, you know, back then when MTV was around, just watching that on repeat.”
Even as a child, Ysa was already experimenting with making music. Soon enough, her desire to get better and better pushed her toward a path of music-making. “I think it was just like, each year, I just wanted to keep improving on my production skills. And then one day I was like, ‘Maybe I should put out something because there’s SoundCloud.’ So, that’s what I did with my first song.”
It was a very DIY way of getting her name out there. But the talent spoke for itself with Tea, which she wrote and produced by herself, serving as her first official single back in 2016. The track is an alt-pop dreamscape that can make you feel like you’re in a trance. Even Troye Sivan once reacted to the song, calling it “nostalgic and vibey.”
“I think in terms of the genre right now, it’s very nostalgia, R&B,” says Ysa on where she feels her sound is in. “There’s a lot of 80s and 90s influences in it. I think it’s just natural because I do listen to a lot of like 80s ballads and I think that’s something that I got from my parents.”
She also cites a host of diverse modern-day pop queens who she looks up to including Doja Cat, Dua Lipa, and Charlie XCX. Still, Ysa is open to exploring other styles. When she started, she mainly worked with electronic and synth-pop because that was what she learned from tutorials. As time went on, she transitioned to other styles such as pop, alt-pop, and R&B.
LEARNING TO LOVE HERSELF
Despite what style Ysa decides to try out next, one thing is for certain, her music will always come from an impassioned place of self-worth. It’s practically dripping all over her latest single, 1Nightwitu, a tropical house number that celebrates female empowerment and calls on women to embrace their sexuality and be reminded of their self-worth. According to Ysa, the main inspiration for the track came from a more personal desire. “Honestly, this was written during the lockdown back in 2020. And I think I was just craving to be at a beach. I was just thinking about manifesting being at a beach. I kind of wanted to put that in my sound.”
1Nightwitu serves as the latest single off her upcoming self-titled debut EP, which is set to drop this November 4. The release of the body of work marks an important milestone for the musician as not only will this be her first EP, but it will touch upon Ysa’s journey of discovering herself. In four tracks, the EP will follow the universal journey of heartbreak, re-invention, and womanhood. It was a thematic choice that came more as a natural progression for Ysa, but one that she very much went through.
“I think that’s something I had to learn how to come to terms with growing up,” expresses Ysa in a candid moment. “It was either you’re not Filipino enough, or you’re not Singaporean enough. I think you’ve probably heard that from a lot of people who’ve grown up in different cultures in their life. But I mean, it is true, it is real. Like, it’s hard, you always end up feeling kind of out of place.”
She admits that she used to dream of having a simpler life and looking more like the kids around her when she was younger. But that changed when she realized the power her unique story has. “There are so many individuals talking about their stories, you kind of feel like not alone. And you kind of start feeling like ‘Oh, everyone’s unique in their own way.’ It kind of helps you feel like okay; I should just own my own story.”
Ysa credits the support of her family and friends for slowly but surely getting her to that stage in her life where she feels free to own who she is. “I think it’s so important to have that support. Even when I was making this EP, I don’t think I’d been able to do it without moral support. It can get lonely sometimes. Especially when you’re kind of doing this all on your own.” Specifically, she recalls how her late father was supportive of her decision to become a musician. “I think that kind of really pushed and convinced me that it’s okay to kind of go into the arts.”
ARTIST ON THE RISE
It’s a good thing that Ysa Yaneza never strayed from her path because what she has to offer is something special. Her lyricism, music, and Y2K-meets-confident baddie visuals have received praise and coverage from outlets in Singapore, the Philippines, and more. And speaking of, the young artist is set to travel to the country soon as she embarks on a promo tour of her upcoming EP.
“I do hope to perform live. I think that’s something I’ve been craving, wanting to do,” expresses Ysa on what she hopes to do in the country. “I’ve been trying to produce an EP for the longest time and it’s a lot of work. I think it’ll feel very cathartic to just finally be putting my first debut EP out and getting to perform it.” And yes, food and family are also on her itinerary, with puto bumbong being one of her favorites.
More importantly for her, she just wants to make people happy. “When people think I’ve brought joy to their life, I feel like ‘okay, I’m doing my work, I feel like I have a purpose.’”
And as for others out there who are still struggling to find their self-worth, take it from Ysa and know that your journey is a sprint, not a race. “Just be patient with yourself. Always take care of yourself. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself. There’s always a tomorrow. Honestly, just be kind to yourself.”